Meseret Defar leading Shannon Rowbury in the 3000m at the IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup in Split (Bob Ramsak) © Copyright
Kicking away effortlessly from American Shannon Rowbury with 200 metres to go, the Ethiopian sauntered to a convincing win in 9:03.33. With the others in the field allowing Defar, a former World 5000m champion and World record holder, to dictate the pace, the race easily fell into her grasp giving her notorious late race strength.
“The race was slow so it was really easy for me to get another win,” Defar stated matter-of-factly. Her victory at Split’s Poljud Stadium was the polar opposite of her run in the 5000m four years ago in Athens, when she pounced solo to a impressive 14:39.11 run to win by more than 25 seconds.
Defar was at or near the front from the outset, with Alemitu Bekele, the European 5000m champion, and American Shannon Rowbury, the World 1500m bronze medallist last year staying closest. Defar and Rowbury, just to her outside, ran side-by-side through the bell but the Ethiopian was already upping the tempo for her decisive break about 200 metres later.
Rowbury tried to maintain contact through the final turn, but was passed down the homestraight by Bekele who took second in 9:04.08, well clear of the American who held on for third in 9:04.82.
“I was really nervous before the race,” Rowbury, who improved to 8:31.38 this year, said. “But I know I’m strong and it gave me confidence.” Like many atletes who’ve become enchanted by this corner of Dalmatia, Rowbury will be ending her visit to Split exploring the local charms. On Sunday she’s planning to make a boating trip to the Island of Hvar and to nearby Trogir, a city on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Canada’s Malindi Elmore was further back in fourth (9:05.75), with Kenyan Ines Chenonge (9:07.18) sixth.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF